CIO

Deloitte targets e-learning at top tier

Online leadership program attracts some high-level players

Deloitte is banking on the war for talent to drive the uptake of an online learning and development tool aimed at boosting management and leadership skills among senior ranks. Qantas, Australia Post, Mallesons Stephen Jacques, SA Water and Australian Pharmaceuticals Industries have signed up to the Deloitte Leadership Academy, which draws on content from Harvard, Stanford, Macquarie Graduate School of Management, Melbourne Business School, and the Australian School of Business at the University of NSW.

Subscribers can access the academy from desktop computers, laptops, via podcasts, and the in-flight entertainment systems of the next generation Qantas aircraft.

Law firm Mallesons Stephen Jaques has bought subscriptions for 50 partners for 12 months starting in February.

Mallesons' head of learning and career development, Campbell McGlynn, said the academy complemented the company's broader leadership development strategy, which from next year will focus more strongly on developing a pipeline of leaders around future skills needs.

The academy's major drawcards include access to high-quality content from Harvard, Stanford and Australian business schools, and the promotion of internal and external company networks, Mr McGlynn said.

But the biggest benefit of all is the flexibility it gives users to pursue professional development.

"Our partners, their time is so important," Mr McGlynn said. "They're driven by billable hours, that's our economic model, so it's a challenge getting partners to take time way from daily work to invest in their development."

Asked if time pressures would present a challenge in persuading partners to use the online academy, Mr McGlynn said encouraging people to use electronic learning tools proactively and productively was a "perennial challenge".

"It needs to be positioned really carefully with the partners and we're looking for people to put their hands up," he said. "We're not keen on just throwing it at everyone."

Of 200 partners, just 50 will have access to the service initially. Mallesons will run one-on-one sessions with partners showing them how to navigate the online service. Staff usage will also be monitored.

Mr McGlynn also said there was the added flexibility of staff being able to download short snippets of content onto iPods, which all partners are issued with, as well as accessing content on Qantas flights.

Content includes 42 e-learning modules and four certification courses from Harvard, covering management and leadership issues.

Digitised seminars and accompanying presentation notes from some of the business schools will also be available.

Other content includes CEO Stories - five-minute interviews with business leaders on life lessons and their careers.

Consulting partner at Deloitte, Tom Richardson, said the key driver behind the academy was the war for talent.

"Most of our clients are really feeling the impact of the constrained labour supply," Mr Richardson said. "What they're getting out of it is a leadership team with the right kind of leadership skills and a much better connected team.

"The flow-on benefits are staff who are more engaged, and a better place to work."

Rather than encouraging managers to become more insular, by following learning and development programs online the academy encourages collaborative networks, both internally within an organisation and externally, through the use of forums, discussion boards, online directories and wikis, he said.

Staff have unlimited access to content and collaborative tools. Organisations with less than 50 staff signed up are charged $3000 per person, per year. Those with 50 to 200 staff involved pay $2400 per person per year.

Mr Richardson said the philosophy behind agreements with business schools was one of partnership, where Deloitte accesses their content and in return the schools receive feedback that helps them tailor the content as well as content within other programs, such as MBAs.

MBS general manager of corporate business development, Nicola Barrett, said for the school it was a way of getting more exposure to business leaders, and another way to give greater flexibility to those learners.

At this stage MBS is providing four half-hour videos on topics including building and breaking brand equity, and relationship management. The intent is to provide fresh content on a regular basis.

"We're not providing course material," Ms Barrett said.

"We don't see this as a replacement, by any means, of what we do today. This is an adjunct of what we do today."

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